of the House of Commons, that we shall speak of them together. Sir Robert Peel was the more successful minister, but he had requisites for success which Lord Russell never possessed, strong majorities both in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. The loss the liberals have never possessed in the present century, and to this is to be as cribed in a great measure their ill success in legislation. The conservatives, too, are a much more homogeneous party than the liberals, and generally more docile and obedient. Thus Sir Robert Peel was enabled to begin and complete a systematic series of legislative measures, which he and his friends would have mercilessly mutilated had a whig ministry proposed them. But Sir Robert Peel's administrative abilities were of a far higher order than his rival's; as a statesman he was more sagacious and more resolute, and more regardless of minor consequences. Convinced of the necessity of removing the Roman Catholic disabilities and repealing the corn laws, he considered party obligations of trivial importance, even if à violation of them should banish him from office. We doubt very much whether Lord Russell would have cared as little for the fate of the whig party. The conservatives are very exacting in their demands upon their leaders, and from recent articles in Blackwood's Magazine and the Quarterly Review we infer that they still consider Sir Robert Peel as guilty of party treason, and that he should have been true to them notwithstanding the consequences to the country. The fault was on their side, not upon his. The result of his adhering to protectionist opinons or resigning office in 1846, and allowing the whigs to dissolve parliament, would have been infinitely more disastrous to the conservative party than the course he took. The whig protectionists generally treated their leaders in a much better manner.

Sir Robert Peel was eminently successful in choosing his colleagues. No English premier ever showed equal discernment in this respect, where his own origin probably assisted him. He always pushed forward young and promising men to the front rank. The world has long admired the abilities of that little knot of statesmen known as Peelites, but equal wisdom would have discovered equally good material among the liberals. Lord Derby deserves praise for discrimination of the same kind. Nothing could have been more unpromising than the material from which he had to form his cabinet in 1852, but his selections, made without regard to

VOL. XI.-NO, XXI. 8.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

family or connections, were generally fortunate, and, except Lord Malmesbury, received, after trial, the public approval.

Here was Lord John Russell's great failing. The cabinet he formed in 1846 was eminently the family government, consisting of gentleman-like politicians, with good pedigrees, genteel connections, large estates, and some official experience. Men were allowed to become radicals, and vex the ministry with agitation of all kinds, who, if place had been found for them, would have made excellent ministers. So Sir William Molesworth proved to be some years later. We do not believe Sir Robert Peel would have allowed Mr. Cobden to run wild. Lord John Russell's cabinet was so formed that, in consequence of it, he began his administration with a large amount of unpopularity. His chancellor of the exchequer's incapacity became almost as notorious as Sir Francis Dashwood's. Lord Palmerston in the Foreign office and Lord Clarendon as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland were the redeeming features of the government, but the Greys strongly protested against the former appointment. Macaulay, like Burke, was thrust into the pay office, although he had a seat in the cabinet ; a convenient out-ofthe-way place was found for Mr. Butler, while Sir Charles Wood and Sir George Grey were adorning the better offices. Lord John Russell's fault in this respect still clings to him. He is personally disinterested, and undoubtedly honest, but a training among the old whig aristocracy was the worst a politician could receive, and such was his, and his mind has been exceedingly narrowed in consequence. Within two years, amid the murmurs of the nation, he recalled Sir James Hudson, the distinguished English minister at Turin, to make way for his brother-in-law. A conservative would not have been guilty of such a blunder.

Lord Russell's parliamentary talents are of a very high order; nearly, if not quite, equal to Sir Robert Peel's As a debater he has had few equals, and has fully justified the Duke of Wellington's assertion that he was a host in himself. His great successes have therefore been in parliament, and there he has generally been greatest in opposition. Personally be is fearless enough to satisfy Sidney Smith's famous saying, but as a minister he is too hesitating and timid. The great blunder of his life was dismissing Lord Palmerston from the foreign office in 1851, to please the prejudices of the court. He turned the latter into a rival, who speedily supplanted him in the leadership of the liberal party, and has retained it

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ever since. Indeed, the foreign policy of Lord John Russell's government proved its strongest point, as it was the weak point of Sir Robert Peel's.

It is interesting to speculate upon what might have been the destiny of the Earl of Derby had he not (when Lord Stanley) seceded from the whigs in 1834. Had he remained with them it is almost certain that he would have succeeded Lord Althorpe as their leader in the House of Commons, and might eventually have become their prime minister. Although not an abler man, nor more powerfully connected, he got the start of Lord John Russell in early life, and at thirty-four became secretary of state for the colonies, while Russell, who is seven years his senior, was only paymaster of the forces. His advancement he doubtless owed to his precocious powers of debate, which caused Macaulay to say of him that he was the only eminent debater who had not made himself master of his art at the expense of his audience. Whether Lord Derby would have succeeded so well in the liberal party, as he has in the conservative, is very doubtful. Up to 1834, however, he had been looked upon as rather an extreme liberal, and, except on church questions, has not, we believe, displayed his latent toryism. The famous “

The famous “ appropriation question, upon which he separated from his colleagues, was one of those abstract principles which never resulted in anything except in breaking up Lord Grey's government, and which should never have been allowed to be agitated. We think, however, that Lord Derby must eventually have found his way to the conservative ranks. His high birth, brilliant accomplishments and great eloquence have always made him a favorite, but he lacks discretion, both as a debater and a minister, and seems to grow daily more narrow and conservative in his opinions. He takes his exclusion from office with extreme good nature, and we doubt whether he personally cares for it. His position is too exalted to make such honors or emoluments of any particular value to him, and only a sense of duty can induce a man like him to undergo all the fatigues and submit to the drudgery of an opposition leader. Nor can he well lament his opposition life, when it gives him the time to gain more permanent fame by distinguished labors in the field of literature. But his translation of Homer hardly falls within our subject. Lord Derby, although a brilliant politician and a nobleman of high character, has not, we think, with all his ability, earned a very great reputation as a statesman. No great political measure is associated with his name; no very profound or original principles have been enunciated in his speeches. He lacks, too, those broad sympathies which enable a statesman to judge of the wants and feelings of all classes in the community.

The present veteran prime minister is a far more remarkable man—remarkable for his long political career, extending back to 1807; for his vigorous old age, which enables him in his eighty-first year to preside over his sovereign's councils and lead the House of Commons; and for his rare sagacity, sound judgment, great political knowledge, vast experience, and wide popularity. We believe Cardinal Fleury is the only man who has held a similar office at an equally great age ; but Fleury never had Palmerston's

parliamentary duties to perform. A very marked comparison may be drawn between Lord Palmerston and Sir Robert Walpole. In both are seen the same good humor, the same wonderful knowledge of men, of the House of Commons and of the English people; the same dexterity in debate, the same skill in administration, the same careless indifference to theories, the same long official career, and the same thorough comprehension of the every-day wants of the kingdom. Lord Palmerston excels in his knowledge of diplomatic matters and the foreign relations of the kingdom, as Sir Robert Walpole did in finance. The foundation of the character of each is the sterling common sense which distinguishes the English above other nations. But Lord Palmerston has not the inordinate love of power, which in Sir Robert Walpole drove all his abler colleagues into opposition. It did, indeed, seem as if, in his first ministry, Lord Palmerston was destined for the same unequal warfare, but since then he has shown himself anxious to make his cabinet as strong as


he can.


But Lord Palmerston's career is also remarkable for the slow progress made by him in gaining an acknowledged position among English statesmen. Having held an adminis. trative office for a long period under the tories, without taking active part in debate, he was regarded as nothing more than a placeman, indifferent to principles so long as he could retain his salary; and the number of prime ministers under whom he had served was constantly alluded to by opponents, in debate and on the hustings. Sir Robert Peel more than once stooped to 'so unworthy a sneer. We

are not inclined to esteem very highly a certain sort of consistency which some value so much. But, in fact, few statesmen have been more consistent than Lord Palmerston. He began life as a conservative of the school of Pitt and Canning, and although he held office uninterruptedly from 1807 until 1828, yet this was in fact in one continuous tory administration, notwithstanding the constant changes taking place in the premiership. With the rest of Mr. Canning's friends, he left the Duke of Wellington's government in 1828, and two years later joined the whig government of Lord Grey, since which time he has been a member of the liberal party. In his views of government the change was probably very slight. That many who knew him regarded him, even in his tory days, very differently from the popular estimate of him, is certain. Mr. Canning, whose disciple he has since been considered, was discerning enough to detect his extraordinary powers, and after his secession from the tories they endeavored repeatedly to entice him back.*

The whigs were a long time finding out that he was a consummate politician. When, on Lord Althorpe's leaving the House of Commons, they were at a loss for a leader, the claims of Lord John Russell, Mr. Spring Rice, and Mr. Abercrombie were canvassed by the press, but Lord Palmerston was not once mentioned for the position. When he was defeated for Parliament in 1835, the speaker said of him, “ Lord Palmerston was useful as a debater sometimes, but really we think he is as well out of the way. He is the less likely to form a part of the next liberal ministry.” Sidney Smith spoke in an equally disparaging manner of him. While liberals so regarded the ablest man in their party, it is not so surprising that conservatives did not ap

This, however, was owing to his confining himself entirely to his duties as foreign secretary, which then created little interest in the country. When he had to defend his policy in the House of Commons, his powers as a debater were as conspicuous as they have since been. He has seldom delivered more powerful and convincing speeches than those of 1837 in defence of his course with regard to

preciate him.

* "He quitted a tory government in 1828, because he differed with them upon public principle. While out of office then it had been three several times proposed to him by that government to return to office. They pro posed to him not only to return himself, but to take any two of hispolitical friends with him. They offered him one of three seats in the cabinet, Thrice was the offer made to him, and thrice did he decline it."--Lord Palm erston's Speech to the Electors of Hampshire, January 12, 1835.

« VorigeDoorgaan »